April 22, 2015



“Mr. Diversity” he’s not. The “Bleach Man” would be more appropriate. Five words describe Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s underwhelming victory in the April 7 runoff: Whites, whites and more whites.

It was a $30 million Laundromat Election:  Lots of scrubbing, lots of dirt removal, lots of whitening, and lots of fabric softener to make Emanuel soft and fluffy. And, of course, lots of Drano to eradicate and flush Chuy Garcia’s credibility down the drain. The Rahmster won because he made Garcia more odious that he. The mayor did what was necessary to win.

The final tally was 329,701-257,101 (56.2 percent), in a turnout of 586,602. Emanuel won 35 of 50 wards. Garcia won all 13 Hispanic-majority wards, two white-majority wards (the Southwest Side 23rd Ward, where Bill Lipinski is Democratic committeeman, and the Rogers Park 49th Ward, where Joe Moore is alderman), and not a single black-majority ward.

In the Feb. 24 non-partisan primary, against 4 opponents (two blacks), Emanuel got 214,988 votes (45.5 percent), in a turnout of 472,126. Emanuel won a plurality in 26 wards and a majority in 9 wards. In 2011, against five opponents (three blacks, 2 Hispanics), Emanuel, as a non-incumbent, got 325,496 votes (55.3 percent), avoiding a runoff. Emanuel won a majority in 36 wards, and a plurality in 4 wards.

So, after four years as mayor, Emanuel’s vote plunged by 110,508, but the combined anti-Emanuel vote stayed almost the same: 263,460 in 2011, and 257,138 on Feb. 24. Clearly, over 100,000 Chicagoans, almost all white voters, expressed their dissatisfaction with Emanuel by not voting in the primary. But they “came home” on April 7. Turnout was up by 114,476 over Feb. 24, and Emanuel’s vote was up by 114,713. Can you believe that? Virtually every non-Feb. 24 voter who voted on April 7 voted for Rahm. Or, arguably, in the crunch, voted against Chuy.
In fact, Emanuel’s 2015 runoff vote of 329,701 is almost identical to his 325,4in 2011. In other words, the mayor’s base of support is static. It hasn’t grown; nor has it diminished, at least not against his desultory 2015 field of foes. But he has hit the proverbial glass ceiling: It has nowhere to go but down.

In analyzing the April 7 results, certain myths can be shattered:

First, the esteemed mayor did not assemble a bi-racial coalition. Emanuel won because white voters in white-majority wards voted heavily for him. Of Emanuel’s 329,701 votes, 165,676 emanated from the city’s 19 white-majority wards. That’s 50.2 percent of his total citywide vote. He got 67 percent of the white vote, 51.9 percent of the black vote, and 37.2 percent of the Hispanic vote.

On the Lakefront, in the six wards (49, 48, 46, 44, 43, 42) extending from Rogers Park to Rush Street, most of which have a sizeable Jewish and gay vote, with a predominately upscale electorate, Emanuel trounced Garcia 55,643-23,503 (70.3 percent). There was no liberal “guilt” to be found. Garcia ran as the “progressive” candidate. And on the “progressive” Lakefront, where nary a Republican is to be found, voters opted overwhelmingly for the arrogant white liberal Jewish mayor over the Hispanic liberal county commissioner. That, of course, wasn’t racist. It was a wise choice. On Feb. 24, Emanuel got 36,147 votes in those wards. The runoff uptick was 19,496 votes. In 2011, Emanuel got 60,064 votes in those wards.

In the three west Lakefront wards (50, 47, 32), encompassing such liberal,   upscale areas as Wicker Park and Ravenswood, plus multi-ethnic but still-Jewish West Rogers Park, Emanuel won 24,006-14,643 (62.1 percent). In the primary, Emanuel got 14,928 votes; the runoff uptick was 9,078 votes. The wards’ aldermen – Debra Silverstein (50th), Ameya Pawar (47th) and Scott Wsguespack (32nd) – all claim to be “independent,” but only Waguespack has been a consistent anti-Emanuel vote. In 2011, Emanuel got 28,040 votes in those wards.

In the five far Northwest Side wards (45, 41, 40, 39, 38), a working-class area with huge numbers of city workers (including cops and firefighters), Emanuel won the runoff 42,953-29,319 (59.4 percent), in a 72,272 turnout. Despite massive anti-Emanuel propaganda by the public-sector (SEIU and AFSCME) and teachers’ unions, Chuy was a tough sell. They ripped the mayor as an anti-union ogre who would slash pensions. Emanuel inundated the area with direct-mail pieces claiming that Garcia, if mayor, would raise property taxes. In the primary, Emanuel got 28,937 votes in those wards; the runoff uptick was 14,016 votes. In 2011, Emanuel got 36,213 votes on the Northwest Side.

In the five South Loop and Southwest Side wards (2, 11, 13, 19, 23), including the gentrified areas south and west of the Loop, plus Bridgeport, and extending south to Beverly and Midway Airport, it ain’t what it used to be. The current ward bosses – John Daley (11th), Mike Madigan (13th), Tom Hynes (19th) and Bill Lipinski (23rd) – can’t deliver votes like they used to do. But Daley, a county commissioner, brother and son of Chicago mayors, managed to get nephew Patrick Daley Thompson elected 11th Ward alderman, and aide Brian Hopkins elected 2nd Ward alderman.

The Hispanic vote is growing, but the residuary political machines, while sputtering, still operate. Emanuel won 43,074-28,811 (59.9 percent), in a 71,885 turnout. Daley’s 11th Ward went 7,634-4,805 (61.4 percent) for the mayor, Madigan’s 13th Ward 7,844-6,263 (55.6 percent), Hynes’ 19th Ward 11,921-8,165 (59.3 percent), and Lipinski’s 23rd Ward 6,373-4,874 (56.7 percent) for Garcia. Lipinski is approaching the DOA stage. In the primary, Emanuel got 28,741 votes in those wards; the runoff uptick was 14,333 votes. In 2011, Emanuel got 34,194 votes on the Southwest Side.

Overall, the mayor’s white-ward vote went from 158,511 in 2011 to 108,753 on Feb. 24 to 182,044 on April 7. Feb. 24th’s  white non-voters and non-Emanuel voters came out or came back.

Second, the myth that black voters won’t vote for a Hispanic was shattered – to a degree. As demonstrated on April 7, if there’s no black person on the ballot, they just don’t vote. But among those that do, a Hispanic is not an unpalatable alternative – at least as contrasted against a white (Emanuel) who is not perceived as friendly and indulgent.

In 2012, Barack Obama got 441,462 votes in the 18 black-majority wards. Although Emanuel was Obama’s White House chief-of-staff, and the president endorsed Emanuel for re-election, Emanuel’s numbers were anemic as compared to Obama.  The 2015 primary turnout was 195,373, 269,197 less than in 2012; Emanuel received 86,011 votes (44 percent), to Garcia’s 47,774, with 61,618 scattered, in a 195,373 turnout. In the runoff, turnout rose to 204,958, and Emanuel topped Garcia 106,511-98,447 (51.9 percent). Emanuel’s vote increased by 20,500 from the primary, and Garcia’s increased by 50,673 – more than doubling.

Overall, voter registration in the black wards is 612,608; of that number, only 204,958 – barely a third -- voted on April 7, and of those that voted, Emanuel got 106,511 votes – a dismal 17.3 percent of the total black voter pool.

Third, the so-called “Sleeping Giant” – namely, Chicago’s Hispanic voters – is still snoring. Hispanics comprise roughly 24 percent of the city’s population, but only 310,347 are registered to vote. In the 13 Hispanic-majority wards (1, 10, 12, 14, 15, 22, 25, 26, 30, 31, 33, 35, 36), Garcia beat Emanuel 69,297-41,146 (62.8 percent), in a turnout of just 111,542. Only 35.5 percent of registered Hispanics in those wards bothered to vote.

Despite the fact that a Hispanic was on the ballot, Hispanic turnout failed to surge. Garcia lost to Emanuel by 72,600 votes. Garcia’s strategy was to get a 55-60 percent Hispanic turnout, and win 75 percent of them. In the primary, Garcia got 45,076 votes; in the runoff, in those wards, he upped his vote to 69,297, an increase of just 24,221. Clearly, for Hispanics, 2015 was no “Harold Washington moment.” Garcia will remain a player on the city stage, but 2015 was his first and only chance to make history. There was no black-Hispanic coalition; and never will. Future runoffs will be white versus black. Had Toni Preckwinkle or Karen Lewis run, black turnout would have soared, and the Rahmster would have likely lost.

Despite having spent $30 million during 2014-15, and buying 14,000 gross rating points on TV, the mayor’s win was underwhelming. He is no longer a politician on the make; he is on the wane. Statewide office is now beyond his grasp. He will never be governor or senator, nor would any Democrat want him as a vice-president. He has too much baggage, and is simply not likeable. He adds nothing to the ticket.

His predecessor, Rich Daley, after a close election in 1989, was re-elected with close to 70 percent. Daley’s “fatigue factor” surfaced after 20 years; with Emanuel, it took only four. Given the enormity of the city’s $20 billion pension shortfall, and the draconian tax and revenue increases needed, there is little doubt that Emanuel will be unelectable by 2019. Emanuel’s sole bailout would be to get a spot in Hillary Clinton’s cabinet.

The jousting for 2019 has already begun, with the aldermen having to choose a new vice-mayor to replace Ray Suarez, who was defeated.

E-mail Russ@russstewart.com or visit his website at www.russstewart.com.